Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Spring Picture Gestapo

Next week, my kids are supposed to have their spring pictures taken at school.

What, spring pictures aren't taken at your kids' school? Your school must not be part of the Lifetouch Mafia.

A few years ago, our school switched from a local photographer to Lifetouch, purveyors of digital backgrounds and full-body shots. The jaded former photographer wrote a letter to the editor of our local paper to let us all know of this change.

What it came down to, he said, was assignment notebooks. For exclusive rights to take our kids' pictures, Lifetouch would give our school a bunch of assignment notebooks. And our school took the deal.

And with it came a new phenomenon: spring pictures. But the deal with these are they take them on spec, send the whole package home with the kids, and if you want to buy them, send money back. If you don't want to buy them, send the pictures back.

If only it were that easy.

I find it ridiculous to send these pictures home with kids. Kids that ride the bus. Kids that lose mittens. Kids that have little-to-no-concept of economics and only know that if you take something, you'd better have paid for it. Since they got the pictures, they must have been paid for, right?

"Listen here, Toots. Either you take this picture or wake up with a horse's head in your Barbie bed. Your choice."

For the past two years, Larry Potter has brought these pictures home, wanting to keep them. And each year, I put them back in his backpack and instructed him to return them to his teacher.  AND, two out of two years, about mid-June when I'm doing an overhaul cleaning, I find his stolen pictures deep in a drawer I don't normally go in.

He gets a stern talking to and a punishment. Which is pretty much all I can do at that point.

So this year, I am pro-active. I told Hoover's teacher that I didn't want him taking the pictures. She said, "Everyone has to take them." Later that day, LP said his teacher told him the same thing.


What is going on? If it's a matter of a contract fulfillment, I am well within my boundaries as a parent to  have first-refusal of something that involves a picture of my kids. It seems to me like this is some version of mafia protection. I will happily return my son's $8 assignment notebook. "Everyone has to take them," seems a little extreme. (And I know this isn't the teachers's some party line from higher ups.)

I wrote an e-mail to the principal, the district administrator and the boys' teachers (just to let them know what I sent), expressing my parental veto on these pictures. I mean, if it works for sex ed and vaccinations, certainly something as trivial as pictures will be covered. I haven't heard back yet, but if I get any grief about this, I will conveniently show up at their picture times and hold them back. Come at me with your tripod, bro.

I can just say it's against our religion. I believe in not turning my kids into make-shift bill collectors for shitty pictures I didn't order in the first place.


  1. I also found it odd that my son had a sheet announcing "spring pictures" in his bag. I'd never heard of it. The photographer requires that if you want them, you pay for them in advance. Before you see the pictures. So if your kid ends up looking like a deranged psychopath in his pic? Tough Schnit. You already paid!

    1. You can get a retake picture on retake day or return them and get your money back if you do not like your kids picture. If you don't want them taken send in a note on picture day saying you do not want your child's picture taken.

  2. I was so confused when you posted about this on facebook, but now it makes sense. Did you end up getting billed for Larry Potter's stolen pictures? Are the costs ridiculously high, like with wedding pictures?

    Man oh I see how easy it is to make a killing by selling something through the school. Sending the pics home with the kids - genius. What a racket!

    (p.s. sorry to be a spelling asshole, but it's Gestapo with an "e". Unless you did it intentionally, in which case, nevermind.)

  3. Lifetouch is out here, and they suck. They really really suck. i get the class picture from them just for the baby books, but in every picture so far, my kids are looking at the person behind the camera like they've lost their mind. The photographer that is. Whatever happened to actually getting the kid to smile?

  4. I would have called her out on the Gestapo spelling too, but she would have yelled at me. :) DH

  5. LoL. Hey DH, you defeat the anonymous by signing it! - Layman

  6. Found your blog on Rants from Mommyland, can't wait to read more. I would show up at school too; nobody backs my kids in a corner (and takes a picture).

  7. we used to have have lifetouch, now we're back to once a year local photographers.

    :) in Canada

  8. But are we responsible for paying for something we did not order. My kids had the pics already cut to hand out when I seen them.

  9. My friend worked in sales for Lifetouch, so thought I'd share a couple of things she told me:

    By having your child photographed you automatically agree that you are ordering a full set of photos to either purchase or send back.

    If the photos were delivered home, you wouldn’t have to pay because the law says you have the option to keep items delivered to you that you did not ask for. But since your child is carrying the photos home, and there is no delivery service (Postal Service; UPS; FedEx) involved, that law does not apply.

    The way to avoid any of this, as suggested above, is to send your child with a note saying ‘do not photograph.’

  10. I know this post was written quite some time ago but I want to put my two cents in and tell you that most states have a law that covers this. I'm not all about stealing. I'm also not all about schools thinking that they have more rights over my child than I do myself. Since our school keeps sending these pictures home WITHOUT our permission, and I take better pictures of my children myself not to mention the COST!!, I am not sending them back to them for GOD KNOWS WHAT?!?! to happen to pictures of my children. So states have a law called the Unsolicited Merchandise law. Check it out for your state and see if it pertains to you. This law states that you do NOT have to pay for merchandise that was sent to you without your permission or your payment and that you are not required to return such merchandise or pay for it. Here is the law for my state in particular.

    Act of Jun. 6, 1969, P.L. 70, No. 21 Cl. 12
    AN ACT
    In relation to unsolicited merchandise.
    The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
    hereby enacts as follows:
    Section 1. Unless otherwise agreed between the sender and
    the recipient of the goods prior to delivery, where unsolicited
    goods are delivered to a person, he has a right to refuse to
    accept delivery of the goods and is not bound to return such
    goods to the sender. If such unsolicited goods are sent by mail
    to and intended for the recipient, they shall be deemed a gift
    to the recipient, who may use them or dispose of them in any
    manner without any obligation to the sender.

    Hope this helps some parents!

  11. KBGB: With all due respect, you did give permission. It came about when you registered your child for school. Part of school registration means giving permission to your school to do business with any company on behalf of all the children. In this case, that includes an agreed upon transaction between your school and the photography company to photograph all the children, then send them home with entire packages. By the way, part of the photo agreement might be that the company can get your home address from the school to send you a bill for the photos you don’t return (keep in mind, the company doesn’t know whether you don’t like the photos or you just forgot to pay).

    Yes, there are times, such as obtaining school nurse supplies, when it’s more practical for a school to decide for everyone what kind of vending will take place. But those messy photos of a child looking half in the bag or standing next to a plastic tree don’t exactly fit into that category.

    So, the best advice is to join an ever-growing boycott of the entire process. That starts with not allowing your child to be photographed at school if it’s for the purpose of marketing lousy photography packages. After that, let your school know where you stand.

  12. Do you know anyone who has taken this to the media? That's usually a quick way to shut down skeezy business practices such as this one.

  13. Do you know anyone who has taken this to the media? That's usually a quick way to shut down skeezy business practices such as this one.

  14. If they send them or keep them they're free and it will be funny memories and cute for your kids to see someday they can bill you all they want but you don't know anything and they can't hold you accountable for something they sent home and you didn't ask for plain and simple so relax